Council chair standing up for all of St. Louis County

\Call the Tune by Mike Ånthony

\”Call the Tune” by Mike Ånthony

County Executive Charlie Dooley certainly has stirred up a hornet’s nest of criticism over his proposed 2012 budget.

Besides facing a barrage of criticism from county residents, Dooley, a Democrat, faces opposition over his recommended budget from a majority of the County Council — even members of his own party.

Leading the council opposition is Chairman Steve Stenger, a Democrat from Affton who represents the 6th District. Stenger is justifiably concerned about the county executive’s proposed budget that calls for the closing of 23 county parks, eliminating 175 jobs and not plowing streets in unincorporated areas of snow when accumulations are 2 inches or less, among other things.

As Stenger has noted, his district is “98 percent unincorporated.”

South county parks targeted for closing are Bohrer Park, Black Forest and Ohlendorf. In addition, the Kennedy Recreation Complex pool would be closed.

Because of his concerns, Stenger appointed a Special Budget Committee to review Dooley’s proposed budget. That committee met for the first time on Nov. 21. A number of members of Dooley’s staff were present to field questions from the committee members, but Dooley was nowhere to be seen.

During the panel’s second meeting last week, Dooley was front and center. Before committee members could begin their work, they were treated to a harangue by Dooley about his and his staff’s experience in preparing budgets and his contention the county is facing a fiscal crisis.

The county executive then proceeded to criticize Stenger, saying, “… Let me tell you something, being the chairman of the County Council does not give you the knowledge of a county budget in any one year. It’s impossible. I’ve been a chairman before. You can’t know what you need to know — you just can’t …”

How disappointing and inappropriate on Dooley’s part. One would think he would welcome alternatives to the downright draconian measures his recommended budget contains.

Stenger, who doesn’t believe the county is facing a financial crisis, said the committee that he has appointed will “make some fairly bold budget proposals that would cover any shortfall.”

We look forward to seeing the committee’s proposals and appreciate Stenger standing up not only for south county, but all of St. Louis County.